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WiFi Tethering on Straight Talk

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In this guide, I will discuss EVERYTHING you need to know about WiFi tethering on Straight Talk – from which SIM card to get, and how to properly set it up, to what you should do, if you get caught and your SIM card gets disabled, and if you temporary loose your phone number, how to get it back.

Warning: All information below is provided for reference purposes ONLY, and we are not responsible for anything (including but not limited to, your sim card and phone being permanently disabled, losing you phone number, etc.). Anything you do, is at your own risk!

Why tethering on Straight Talk:

As you may or may not know, most carriers charge additional fees for wifi tethering (using your phone as to connect other devices to the internet via you 3G/4G data plan). They do so even if you have a tiered (limited) data plan. This, if you ask me is complete BS, because you are already paying for limited about of data (usually 2 or 3 or 5 GB). So why should you pay AT&T, Verizon and others, extra $15-20 / month extra, for something you already paid for?

However tethering being free or not, is not the topic I wanted to discuss. If you’ve read my other posts – I actively use Straight Talk. However, I take full advantage of it – I bought a SIM card for $15 and now I can use it with ANY phone of my choice – right now I use it in my Galaxy Note. However, I also have a T-Mobile unlimited small business plan, which I use as my primary phone for calls, and I don’t really need the included unlimited minutes on my Straight Talk line – I use it for tethering!

Straight Talk position on tethering:

In just a few words – NO tethering under any circumstances! They don’t even offer an optional tethering plan. However, there is always a way to game the system – that is until you get caught :)

Essentially there are two “types” of unlimited data plans on ST – the old “Straight Talk SIM Swap” method, where you took your SIM card from Nokie E71 / E5 and put it into Android phone.

Second “type” is the new “buy $15 SIM Card and use it with your Android / iPhone” plan.

Differences between the two:

Speeds and Carriers:

1st type works only with AT&T phones (to get full 3G/4G speed).

2nd type – you can choose between T-Mobile or AT&T SIM cards. While T-Mo sim card will most likely (I have not personally tested) give you HSPA+ 21 or maybe even (very unlikely) 42 mbps speeds, AT&T will have a much better overall coverage, and I personally tested it to have “4G” HSPA+ speeds (21 mbps), which were / are pretty good!

Legal details:

Warning! I did not personally read Straight Talk Terms and Conditions (T&C), so information below is ONLY my guesses based on my personal experience and what I read online!!! You should their T&C for yourself before making any buying decisions and I’m not responsible for ANYTHING!

With that out of the way, here are two “legal” or contract differences that I think are there:

Both plans include “Unlimited Web Browsing” – what does that mean for us?

With SIM Swap method, it is presumed that you will use older and less capable 3G phones, but still, as far as I know, T&C for those plans specifically say that you cannot stream YouTube and other similar services, download music, files, etc. It is also specifically stated (as I learned when my SIM card was disabled :) ) – you cannot tether!

You can only browse web pages from your phone! Of course I did not follow T&C by swapping SIM card from Nokia E71 into Galaxy Note. But nothing would happen if my DATA usage was moderate. It was not. I was streaming YouTube / Netflix, downloading roms, and (by mistake) uploading pictures to Google+ … in the end I used several GB of data, and my SIM and Nokia phone were permanently disabled :(

But fear not! I got a SIM card for $15, and am at it again!!!

$15 SIM Card plan is more liberal I believe, as it is assumed that you will use a newer “real” smartphone such as high-end Android phone or an iPhone. Therefore they (I believe) have included video streaming into the plan. If they wouldn’t – they would have WAY too many “Wal-Mart shoppers” (who often do not know much about all the details of theses palans and advanced phones) complaining that their phone / internet is not working.

The proof that the two “plans” are different – each type has its own APN settings – while first one is very similar to that of AT&T, second is much different. I will provide them below for reference purposes.

Why all this information and what does it have to do with WiFi Tethering?

With these liberal data plans available from Straight Talk, tethering is much more viable now. So the rest is technical – setting it up, not getting caught, and what to do if they do catch you and disable your service.

Get the 4

How to properly set up your phone for tethering:

Best thing to do is to install a custom rom on your phone – preferably not one based on stock roms from manufacturer or carrier. For example CyanogenMod, MIUI or any AOSP based rom. Reason for this – these roms will not have and carrier software, and it will be more difficult for them to track your tethering. If you can’t do it or don’t want to do it – you are still pretty safe to tether.

If you don’t want to install custom ROM, but have root, you should get “WiFi Tether for Roof Users” from Android Market (download here) and follow their setup instructions here. In theory WiFi Tether for Roof Users “tricks” carriers into thinking that you are not tethering. In reality, id does not always work as “promised”, but then again – developers of this app warn you right away that:

Use this application at your own risk. It is possible that use of this program may violate your carrier’s Terms of Use/Terms of Service.

Still, because you will be on Straight Talk, they don’t have optional tethering plans, thus if they catch you will get a warning that next time they will disconnect you.

Finally, if you are on stock rom and are not rooted, I would just enable tethering in settings, set up encryption and use Tethering Widget to quickly turn tethering on and off. This is what I use (but I’m on unlocked Galaxy Note with a custom ICS rom) without any issues.

What to do if you get disconnected and/or loose your phone number:

First – as with any carrier, you can transfer your existing number to Straight Talk. The question is -how much do you need your phone number? If you really need it, I suggest you do not tether aggressively! Put a 3G traffic monitor app on your phone and put a monthly limit to 2-3 GB. I would even break that into daily traffic limits. This is more or less safe.

Most likely scenario that can happen to you (and it happend to me), if you overuse data:

1) They will call you to let you know that you are abusing the system.
2) They will disable data (but phone calls will still work). Your 3G or H+ icon in the notification bar will disappear.
3) They may completely disable your sim card, but this is more likely for “SIM swap” cards.

How to get your internet / data connection restored:

If your 3G / H+ icon goes away, just call ST customer service from some other phone (because they will need to “troubleshoot” your phone with ST sim card), and just play dumb – something like: “Uh yea, I was trying to check my email, and my internet is not working…” – that is what I did , and it got restored in 2 minutes :).

What to do if your connection gets throttled down (speed reduced to 2G):

image of Straight Talk $45 unlimited plan Speed Test This also happened to me a month or so ago – my mobil data speed (download only) dropped down to dial-up levels – so much that Speed Test would not run successfully most of the time – and when it did, i was at 60-70 kbps, instead of typical 2500-5000 kbps. My up speed was still good – about 1000-1300 kbps.

So what I did – I called ST customer support (once again – from a different phone, so they can troubleshoot your ST SIM / phone), and told them that my interent is not working / very slow, sot that page in a browser loads longer than a minute and then stops loading. They were giving me a story that I’m in a bad reception area or that there are “temporary network issues”. Funny thing – we both knew its bull… So I said that it was working fine yesterday, and that I was in different areas of the state (which was true) and that my reception is full – 5 bars, and that there is something wrong on their end .. finally they just reset my SIM card, and all was great once again.

Basically – never admit that you are tethering (if you do) and that the browser on your phone is set to a “Desktop User Agent” – that is if they say that you connect to internet from your computer (imply tethering). And if they say that you are using to much data, tell them that you just check email, browse web from your phone and watch an occasional youtube video. Play dumb, and dont admit to overloading the network.

Also – do not actually overload the network – don’t download torrents and large files – you will just screw it up for everyone else. But moderate tethering and normal web browsing in just fine, and they should not give you hassles – you are after all paying for “Unlimited Web Browsing” and YouTube is web!

What to do if you SIM card / phone got disabled:

If you are using ST branded phone – they may actually disable it from functioning on their network. But, if you are getting just a SIM card – I assume you have a decent off-network phone, and besides, most ST phones are just junk – Except for LG Optimus Black – but that phone works on Sprint network only (CDMA) if I’m not mistaken, and you cannot put a SIM card in it. So for most of you with a SIM card, this will not be an issue. If your card got disabled, there is not much you can do – you will need to get another SIM for $15.

If you do care about keeping your number and your SIM is disabled – get a new one, but DO NOT activate it just yet. Along with SIM card you should also buy 1 month of Unlimited Talk / Text / Web card. When you have both – call ST, and ask to speak to a supervisor right away – lower level customer service people will be of no help.

When you talk to a supervisor, tell him/her that you have a phone number with them on your account – tell them the number, and tell them that you have a NEW sim card which you want to activate with that number. Make sure they understand you correctly – I assume ALL their customer support is outsourced to (most likely) India, judging from accent.

Once they activate your SIM with your number, they will ask for plan card number, and will walk you trough setiing up your phone, APNs, and other things.

If you don’t care about your phone number – you are much safer – if they disable your SIM, just get a new one, activate it, and put data plan on it. However this can become expensive – especially if you get disconnected only a few days into your monthly plan.

Best of luck!

Reference Info:

ST APN Settings for AT&T compatible SIM card:

NAME: straight talk
APN: att.mvno
PORT: 80

ST APN Settings for T-Mobile compatible SIM card:

NAME straight talk
APN wap.tracfone
PROXY leave blank
PORT 8080 8080
MMS PROXY leave blank
MMS PORT leave blank

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June 25th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

T-Mobile $49 plan vs Straight Talk $45 plan – Unlimited plans battle

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If you’ve read our other posts – I’ve talked about Straight Talk $45 unlimited minutes, text and web, and how you could take a sim out of your Nokia E71, and put it into an AT&T-compatible GSM Android phone of your choice, and get great service and your own phone (not being limited to ancient Nokia brick). This is referred to as “SIM swap”. Early this year, Straight Talk started offering you to buy a Straight Talk sim card for $15, and get $45 unlimited plan. This would not be limited to just AT&T phones any more – you can order a sim card that would work on either T-mobile or AT&T network (but not both at once).

The sim card offering makes “sim swap” obsolete for new Straight Talk customers. I will review this option soon, with details of how it works, data speeds, reception, and other nuances (like limits on “unlimited” data).

In this article, I want to discuss the alternative to a budget virtual carrier (MVNO) like Straight Talk / Metro PCS, etc. And this one is from a major carrier – T-mobile.

T-Mobile $49.99 unlimited plan for “small businesses” – preamble:

After unsuccessful takeover by AT&T (which I personally think is the best thing that happened in US mobile market in many recent years, as this would essentially create a duopoly between AT&T and Verizon, and would REALLY suck for all the consumers), T-mobile found itself with $4 billion in contract cancelation fee and extra network spectrum from AT&T. At the same time, T-mobile lost almost a year, during which, they signed up very few customers, and did not get the iPhone (one of the biggest driver of new contracts – just look at Sprint).

Essentially T-Mobile is now the smallest major carrier in US, and needs to catch up to the big boys, and even Sprint. What’s good with T-mo – they did not give up on expanding and upgrading their “4G” HSPA+ network, and even installed several 1900MHz towers here and there. They now have huge bandwidth capabilities and not too many people using the network – so their speeds are great (when you have reception).

T-mobile's Carly Foulkes increases 4G speeds :)

Now, trying to revamp themselves, and get more customers, T-Mobile has offered a new plan that is in the same price range as the MVNO’s (budget carriers) – $49.99 / month, with unlimited minutes, text and web (up to 5GB full speed data, which then gets throttled to EDGE speeds – but you don’t pay for extra traffic). In the age of no unlimited data plans in US – this is great and inexpensive. For $39.99 / month, you can get same plan, but only a 1000 anytime minutes (which is NOT enough for many people – myself including).

There is a catch however – this is a plan for Small Business customer – though I think if you come in and tell them that you are a DBA (“doing business as” non-incorporated small business), they will still hook you up.

Second catch – this plan assumes that you use your own device. If you want a subsidized phone – you will be paying $20 more per month to a total of $69.99. Over 2 years duration of the contract you will pay $480 more, which will cover the phone subsidy.

I personally usually buy my phone outright, and this is great for me – I will be paying less every month, and if I already have my own phone that I want to keep using – I don’t have to pay extra every months. Really like this T-Mo!

Just compare this to AT&T – there to get unlimited minutes, texts and ONLY 3GB of data, you will have to pay $119 + taxes ($69 unlimited minutes, $20 for unlimited SMS, and $30 for 3 GB of data, with extra traffic costing you $10 / 1GB). AT&T does not offer any bundled plans – only “a la carte”.

Of course there is an argument that T-mo has spotty coverage – and they do. But if you live in a major metropolitan area – you are good on coverage and data speeds, and you can’t beat T-Mobile’s prices.

T-Mobile vs. Straight Talk

As I mentioned – Straight Talk is only $45 / month, and also unlimited. But there is a catch – unlimited is actually limited. If you start using too much data, you WILL be cut off, and will loose your prepaid time, and they will disable your sim card / phone from working on their virtual network. Read fine print to understand the details of unlimited “web browsing” (that is no tethering, no downloading, no youtube). In a nutshell – Straight Talk will cut off heavy data users after about 2-3 GB in one month, and if you are not cut off right away, there is always that chance. If you use mobile web moderately, you are safe. I will explain this in details, in my next article.

By contrast – T-Mo give you 5GB of full speed data (up-to 42Mbps, which is comparable with LTE speeds), and even if you go over 5GB, they will throttle your speed to 2G – not cut you off or charge you extra.

If you are a business user – consider Nokia Windows phone or their new HTC One S Android phone, or even other (older) Android devices that are still very much fast and powerful – eg. HTC Amaze 4G or Galaxy S2.

Walk the walk:

Well – i’m not just talking about this – I will be getting an Galaxy Note from AT&T and porting it to T-Mobile 4G network as soon as the bugs and data speeds are ironed out by XDA devs who hacked AT&T Galaxy Note modem to work on T-Mobile 4G 1700MHz HSPA+ network.

I will report my finding to you, as soon as I do it.

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April 20th, 2012 at 2:13 pm